Seeking DIY holiday gifts to create: shoestring budget, expensive taste
September 26, 2014 6:12 PM   Subscribe

I want to get to work ASAP on holiday gifts and am looking for your favorite DIY gift ideas that have fairly broad appeal. Would prefer they not be holiday themed, so that they're gifts people can enjoy year round, or at least longer than the holiday season. They will also need to be tailored to my shoestring budget, but still reflect a sense of 'expensive taste' (I like things to look and be nice, and know this can be done without spending much money). Details on my personal DIY and crafting skills inside, as well as examples of DIY gifts I've made in the past, inside.

Skills I possess/supplies I have in stock/tools I own and know how to use:

- Cooking, baking, infusing alcohol (blueberry walnut bourbon, earl grey gin, etc)
- Essential and carrier oils for use in diy soaps, perfumes, aromatherapy blends, etc
- Knitting (but not crocheting)
- Upcycling furniture (electric sander, hand sanders, varnish, paint, lacquer)
- Kreg jig
- Electric drill, other standard tools-around-the-house
- Empty wine bottles
- A few hundred wine bottle corks I've collected over the years
- Acrylic (both artist's acrylic and craft acrylic) and watercolor paints
- Decent array of quality paint brushes
- Empty canvases
- Chalkboard paint
- Laminating machine (desktop size)
- Hot glue gun
- Dremel (rotary kit; could borrow engraving dremel if needed)
- Basic beading/jewelry making
- Origami paper, intermediate origami skills
- Basic hand sewing (I do not currently have a sewing machine but can borrow one)
- A long reach stapler, good for small/low-expense 'book binding'
- Tracing paper
- Scrap leather
- ...Other things I am probably forgetting, but I can be versatile and extend my reach if it's within reason/budget

DIY gifts I have made in the past:
- Infused alcohols in attractive bottles
- Homemade vanilla extract
- Winter scarves, cowls, hats (all knitted)
- Lemon and thyme sea salt scrubs in glass jars
- Beautiful paper things laminated into bookmarks
- Beautiful small things glued to magnets, for use as... magnets!
- Beautiful things
- Aromatherapy blends in glass perfume bottles, for use as a linen or room spray
- Homemade aftershave using essential oils
- Hand-sewn Hawaiian quilted pillow
- Spiced nuts
- Personalized "gift cards" for services I'll provide like a complimentary free car wash and wax, complimentary private yoga session, complimentary gourmet meal cooked by yours truly, etc

Additional context for my situation: For most people in my life this year, I will be making spiced nuts and my famous cookies, but the principle people for whom I'll be making gifts are my immediate family members (mom/dad/sister), my boyfriend, and a few close friends (both male and female). I'd like to give each of them three to five exceptional, hand made gifts. Most of these individuals are into crafting, cooking, skincare/pampering (boyfriend included!), and decorating; my Dad being the one exception who is more likely to take pleasure in food gifts, things that make him comfortable/warm, and things that memorialize where he grew up.

I want to build on what I've done in the past but also expand - I'm not afraid to try other crafty things, as long as they're classy, thoughtful, and inexpensive! So please throw anything you've got at me, within reason :) Links to Pinterest pages with DIY gifts are okay but I'm trying to break out of the Pinterest framework...

posted by nightrecordings to Grab Bag (16 answers total) 75 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Derp. Didn't mean to list one of my past DIY gifts as just "beautiful things". Meant to say "beautiful things upcycled for other uses" (wine bottles turned into lamps, etc). Just wanted to clarify. I'm pleased with my past efforts but I'm not that arrogant... !
posted by nightrecordings at 6:16 PM on September 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Hardwood pencil/tool/cylindrical object caddy. Basically, some beautiful wood with strategically placed holes (look at Forstner bits), but so so useful.
posted by amtho at 6:29 PM on September 26, 2014

Have you tried 'book arts' - making handmade books? I keep a running chapbook of quotes or poems that grab me, generally divided by themes, and have made small compilations of choices selected for the occasion or individual. Or you could base it on printed photos. There is a world of beautiful papers, ribbons, etc that can meet your standards. I like mine much better than the ones I've seen on Pinterest or etsy.
posted by mmiddle at 6:30 PM on September 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

If your carpentry skills are strong enough to build small frames , you could use your wine cork collection to make wine cork trivets.
posted by Ardea alba at 6:34 PM on September 26, 2014

Using your scrap leather: learn Japanese or Coptic stitching to make your own leather-bound small journals. Many tutorials on youtube. Very elegant and can be tailor-made to the recipient; i.e.: watercolor paper inside for an artist, lined paper inside for the list maker, smooth white paper for the sketcher.

Using your scented oils (although not necessarily pure essential oils, which burn off too quickly) - make candles. Very very easy. You need wicks and can use old tins and things of that ilk. They can look very upper end depending on your container.

I second amthro's suggestion. Look at pegandawl and lessandmore on Etsy for caddies that are really beautiful - just a block of wood with holes drilled in for specific tools. They're lovely.
posted by the webmistress at 6:36 PM on September 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you feel like breaking into a new area, I've developed a reputation for giving canned goods at christmas. Some things that have gone over particularly well:

- dilly beans (add a dried hot pepper to the jar for spicy)
- apricot rosemary jam (really good with cheese)
- things with vanilla bean in them
- I have gotten a jar of fig and walnut jam that made the. best. grilled cheese sandwiches

I've also made other cooking-type things that have been well received, like homemade pork dumplings (frozen on a tray), but timing and travel make that trickier these days. Homemade peppermint marshmallows are fun and festive. Oh, and a chai tea blend with candied ginger and pink peppercorns in it, packaged with some disposable paper tea bags. I think the recipients liked that as well.
posted by quaking fajita at 6:37 PM on September 26, 2014 [4 favorites]

Have you ever made soap from scratch? Or just added things to existing soap base? I make soap in my crockpot, and it's ready to use that day. NO waiting. Everyone loves mint, btw, and using mint tea and then some of the wet mint at the end is great.

Also, I am still on my sister's quilt list (sad face, tho' she did send me a giant crocheted blanket, which is too big and too heavy to be of any use). But I would really love something between a shawl and a sweater or shrug that would keep me warm around my upper arms and chest. Not really a scarf, not really a sweater. But I am chilly! And it should have lots of volume and be snuggly.

Kahlua is always good.

And those French cookies, the crispy ones, I would love those. Lace cookies.

Truffles are always a good choice, you can mix and match flavors there.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 6:50 PM on September 26, 2014

Lariat necklaces can be as simple or elaborate as you want. I give them a LOT, using the beads I've collected over the years. I use leather and just knot in between the beads.
posted by raisingsand at 7:11 PM on September 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Monogrammed coffee mugs! Buy nice, generic mugs at the dollar store and porcelain paint at the hobby store or a big box store with a decent craft section and monogram mugs for each of your relatives. Will pair perfectly with baked goods!

The same porcelain paints can also be used to personalize generic ceramic things of all kinds: Lotion dispensers, soap dishes, x-mas ornaments, etc.

Similarly, a small bottle of glass etching cream and some decent but not pricey glasses (pint glasses, wine glasses, whatever) can make for some beautiful personalized gifts, especially if you can cut your own stencils from contact paper.

I would also love to have some scented neck pillow type things, the kind filled with rice or other grain that you microwave for a few minutes to heat up. That or some silky sleep masks, hand sewn.
posted by GoLikeHellMachine at 7:23 PM on September 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I made most of my gifts for several years until I realized I couldn't quite sustain it anymore. I'm a huge fan of this.

Scented container candles are always good. I realize that's not anything you have experience with, but the supplies are pretty cheap through various online shops (I like CandleScience but you can also find a lot of stuff on Amazon/your local shops/etc.) and they're easy to do.

I've also decoupaged picture frames (comic book/manga pages, dyed newspapers, whatever) and people seem to like those. I'm also a fan of making simple stab-bound books (lots of good instructions for that online).
posted by darksong at 7:30 PM on September 26, 2014

Things I've done in the past that seem to fit your criteria:

-flavored coffees (using an oil on the bean, such as from Buy bulk beans from Costco to keep the cost down and gift in decorated paper coffee bags)
-simple herbal teas (grow mint, tarragon, lemongrass etc and dry. might be too late to do it this year!)
-homemade bitters (lots of great recipes out there, I made grapefruit-Campari bitters)
-liquor/wine bottle vases (using the glass etching tool/hot water method - you can ask around at bars for fancy bottles, though the oddly shaped ones, such as St. Germain, are harder to break evenly)

and my all time favorite... book stash boxes ! buy old, attractive hardcovers for a couple bucks each. these take a LOT of time but the result is very impressive. Your dremel tool will help perfect the project. Bonus: fill them with something unique to the recipient. For example, I made a box of Huck Finn for my Grandma and filled it with a set of markers - she likes to color.

And thanks for all the great ideas in YOUR "gifts I've made in the past" section!
posted by le_salvo at 8:56 PM on September 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I happen to be a fan of maps, and find these cut-paper maps very appealing, and meet your idea of expensive taste a bit better than making stuff with paracord, which is my current hobby
posted by Sunburnt at 11:32 PM on September 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

I have a few knitters/crocheters in my family, both veteran and aspiring. I saw this project bag and figured that is so simple to sew. So I made four at the same time on my sewing machine, and will give the other 3 as presents. It cost me nothing to make them, too - I used a pair of old jeans and lined them with material from old t-shirts.

Additional ideas to enhance the bags:
-sew a tag into the seam with just plain ribbon folded over
-embroider a cute little design into the bottom corner
-brass safety pin brooches can be found at the yarn store or at Michaels for cheap, and (bonus) also useful for marking stitches.
-pretty wooden buttons
posted by lizbunny at 7:44 AM on September 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

Felted snugboots.
Watercolour map of their area, framed.
Clay garden markers.
Cross-stitch family portrait.

And jam.
posted by superfish at 7:10 PM on September 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

The most well-received DIY gift I ever gave was a bottle of Balsamic Drizzle * I think my Dad and uncles drank it, they liked it so well - I've been asked for it repeatedly.

Personally, I would love to received some hand-stitched table runners.

* the recipe linked is just balsamic vinegar & brown sugar; the recipe I used had some soy sauce for extra umami, but I can't seem to find it with a quick google search.
posted by sarajane at 9:02 AM on September 28, 2014

Caramels. Butter, cream, and sugar for ingredients, a candy thermometer for capital, and wax paper for wrapping. No one but you has to know how easy they are to make.

For packaging you can upcycle glass jars, tons, boxes, pretty much anything.
posted by maryr at 11:38 PM on September 28, 2014

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